Image: Mother and child on roof Topdara Parwan (Farhad Soroush, 2017)

The Afghanistan Society was set up in 2019 by like-minded British and Afghan individuals with long experience of living and working in the country. We want to demonstrate our pride in its culture and people by providing opportunities to share the wonderful music, craftsmanship, film, and histories - among much else - from ancient times to the present day.

The Afghanistan Society is the formal working name of the Afghan Refugee Information Network (ARIN), a charity registered in England and Wales no 327194.

Mission Statement

The Afghanistan Society is an independent, a-political and nonpartisan group, open to all, which aims to showcase the richness of Afghan life and culture. It aims to raise awareness and promote dialogue by arranging and supporting events in the UK that bring together those with an interest in or experience of ongoing development and cultural matters in the country.

It is coordinated by a voluntary Steering Group who are also the Trustees of the Charity:

Elizabeth Winter, Co-Chair

Elizabeth, a social scientist and researcher, has been involved with Afghanistan since travelling there in the late '70s and with aid programmes since the early '80s. She has set up and run a number of NGOs and coordinating bodies in the UK, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan and travels to Afghanistan regularly. She specializes in civil society development. 

Shirazuddin Siddiqi, Co-Chair

Shiraz is an independent consultant with experience in devising and managing developmental and informative programmes for radio and television. In 1994, he fled the civil war in Kabul to join BBC AEP in Peshawar. He was BBC Media Action’s Country Director for Afghanistan until June 2017. He has contributed to the news journalism of BBC News online and the Afghan Service of the BBC World Service. He retains a keen interest in the media, both in Afghanistan and internationally, with a particular focus on the development of sustainable strategies for socially-oriented media projects.  

Mark Bowden

Mark is a retired UN Assistant Secretary General. He developed his strong interest and affection for Afghanistan from his time spent as the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator (2012 -2017). In his UN role, he was able to travel across much of the country, engage with civil society and support humanitarian, development and cultural activities. Mark remains deeply engaged in Humanitarian and development issues as a Senior Research Associate with the Overseas Development Institute and as a Senior Adviser to the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.

John Hayward

John spent 15 years working on humanitarian and development projects across Afghanistan for various NGOs and the European Commission’s humanitarian service  (ECHO). He worked cross border from Peshawar in the early 1990’s and was the ECHO  representative in Kabul from 1997 to 1999 and 2002 to 2004. He has a fascination for all things Afghan, with a particular interest in indigenous construction techniques and the mountains of the Hindu Kush, which he spent years travelling through for work and pleasure. He currently farms in England. 

Kudsia Kaker

Kudsia is president of the Afghan Professional Network, a social enterprise committed to connecting and supporting the Afghan diaspora. She is also the director of an international corporate events company, Qatalyst Global, where she predominantly works within the cyber security and digital innovation space. She works closely with all departments to ensure efficiency, compliance and strategic structure of the day to day activities, ensuring they are aligned with the company’s vision and mission. Her background in sales coupled with her interest in research has led her to develop a successful B2B community platform that drives content that is both original and commercially appealing.  

Leslie Knott

Leslie is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and photographer working in Afghanistan since 2004. For two years she lived in rural Faryab province, setting up a women-managed radio station. She spent many years following the Afghan cricket team on their extraordinary journey from refugee camp to the World Cup for her multiple award-winning BBC Storyville film, Out of the Ashes. She has made films about Afghan women in prison, the hunt for Mullah Omar, and the closure of Camp Bastion. In 2010, Leslie set up the Afghan Film Project which trained Afghan filmmakers. Their first film, Buzkashi Boys, was nominated for an Academy Award. Leslie’s films can be seen on Netflix, BBC, ABC, Channel 4, PBS and CNN. 

Kate Pugh, Secretary

After teaching English at the Ministry of Commerce in Kabul, Kate returned to the UK heritage sector most recently heading up The Heritage Alliance for which she compiled a report on its members’ international activities. As well as working with the British Council and UNESCO UK, she is Chair of the Advisory Group for the UK Government’s pioneering Cultural Protection Fund which helps to safeguard cultural heritage at risk in 12 countries across North Africa and the Middle East – including Afghanistan.

Robert Arguile, Treasurer

Robert's interest in Afghanistan started over 30 years ago when he met his now wife. He retired after a career in multinational organisation where he worked on global project implementation. He is a trustee of two charities.

Wazhma Wesa, Cultural adviser

Wazhma has a background in international development and business and spent fours years in Afghanistan working on national-level development programmes and policies. She recently completed the MBA programme at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford and holds an MSc in Development Management from the London School of Economics. She is passionate about the role of business in achieving positive social impact.

Jolyon Leslie, Cultural Adviser

An architect by training, Jolyon Leslie has managed a range of development and cultural programmes for NGOs and the UN in the Middle East and central Asia. He has lived and worked in Afghanistan for the past three decades, and currently advises the Afghan Cultural Heritage Consulting Organisation (ACHCO) on a conservation and cultural issues, while researching the history of Kabul.

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The Afghanistan Society is the working name of the Afghan Refugee Information Network (ARIN), a charity registered in the UK, charity no 327194.

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